Many of my childhood food memories are modest, brief stories.  In most cases I was not a participant, not even an observer, but simply the recipient of some short narrative.  Over time, however, my imagination has romantically evolved the reality of some of those stories to include me.

I can conjure up a detailed scene in my head that is really a complete fabrication.  Like the image of my mother baking fresh bread.  I never actually saw my mother baking fresh bread, though in a way I wish I did.

My mother did in indeed bake a weekly batch of bread, but this was all before my time, so to speak.  My mother stopped baking bread when the task of travelling an almost 90 kilometre (55 mile) round trip to purchase fresh yeast became a little too time-consuming and tedious.

But 40 years on, times have changed in Brisbane.  I suffer no barriers to my basic baking efforts.  A variety of everyday ingredients is always at my fingertips.  And I reflect on that all the time – never more so then when baking bread myself.  I think it is a good thing to be reminded how lucky you are.

And even though many of my childhood food recollections are my own distorted reality, at least I have a handful of memories.

{ Orange date and walnut rye bread } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This bread is lovely and soft and is perfect with both sweet and savoury accompaniments.  The flavour of the dates was fairly subtle so when I bake this bread again, I will eliminate the walnuts and boost up the quantity of dates – or vice versa.  The orange provided a lovely overall freshness to the bread but could be omitted if you prefer.

* Ingredients *
80g dried dates, roughly chopped
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
4g instant yeast
260g warm water (approximately 45C/110F)
275g all purpose white flour
150g rye flour
7g salt
Zest of 1 orange

* Directions *
In a small bowl, place the chopped dates and cover with boiling water.  Set aside for 5 minutes.  Measure out the walnuts in a separate bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the yeast and warm water.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Mix the flours, salt and orange zest in a bowl.  Once the yeast is ready, mix on low speed slowly adding the flour mixture.  Continue to mix for a few minutes until completely combined and until the dough is cleanly coming away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn the speed up to medium, and continue to mix the dough for a further 5 minutes.  In the meantime, drain the dates and set aside.  At the end of the 5 minutes, add in the chopped walnuts and dates and mix until just combined.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, about 1 ½ hours.  After it has doubled in size, transfer to the bench and punch down gently.  Knead the dough and then form into a loaf shape.  Place the dough in an oiled loaf tin (or as I did, a 750g rectangular banneton).  Cover and set aside again for a further 1 hour until doubled in size.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220C/430F.  Once the dough is ready, place the loaf tin in the centre of the oven (or as I did, place the dough from the banneton directly onto a lightly greased baking sheet), and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.  Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Makes one 750g loaf (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)

:: Yeastspotting ::
I am submitting this rye bread to Yeastspotting.